Making Sense of Benjamin Disraeli’s Puzzling Use of His Jewish Roots

A number of historians and biographers have explained the famed Tory statesman’s invocation of his Jewish heritage, in his novels and elsewhere, as a way of making himself attractive to aristocratic figures through a connection with an exotic and in its own way noble Sephardi lineage. In his recent biography of Disraeli, the late David Cesarani attacks this claim and proposes another:

Disraeli’s Hebraic rhapsodies did not endear him to the aristocrats he was [supposedly] impressing with his Jewish genealogy and racial genius. On the contrary, they were offended by the claims made in [his novel] Tancred, irritated by his parliamentary speeches [in favor of expanding Jews’ political rights] in 1847, and outraged by [by ideas about Judaism and Christianity he put forward in his biography of his erstwhile patron] Lord George Bentinck.

By contrast, if they were not euphoric about his interventions, the Rothschilds [the Jewish banking family] were at least mildly flattered. A more credible explanation of Disraeli’s “Jewish explosion” is that it served as neither compensation nor consolation [for lack of aristocratic roots]; it was intended to make him appear more Jewish to get closer to the Rothschilds. . . . Such a tactic fits his pattern of behavior and requires no convoluted explanations or contorted chronology.

Disraeli’s approach to the Rothschilds was largely successful, although they never felt entirely comfortable with him. The nub of the problem was his attitude toward Judaism. When he did not directly denigrate their religion, he tacitly reproached them for not being Christians. The only way he could connect with them was by stressing their “racial” affinity. . . . [T]here was an inverse relationship between his devaluation of Judaism, inherited from his father, and his exaggerated claims for the potency and genius of the Jewish “race,” which [his father] Isaac would have deplored. Disraeli’s self-racialization was the curious solution to his dual identity: it enabled him to be a Jew and a Christian at the same time.

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More about: Benjamin Disraeli, British Jewry, History & Ideas, Literature, Rothschilds

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror